I’ve gotten interested in what I will call “Christian co-dependency,” not only because it came up in Z’coffee with my atheist-philosopher cousin, Kendy, but because some preparatory-review-reading from the morning poked it too.
What is it about faith identity today that makes a deep love of wisdom tradition(s), freedom to be human, and capacities to sit with the experiences (or suffering) of others so bloomin’ difficult?
I call it “Christian co-dependency” because today’s Christians seem to be increasingly bound by congregational norms and the fear of condemnation for innovating beyond them. Congregations seem completely stymied in how to shape faith as risked creativity, boundless joy, deepening compassion. Co-dependence prevents trusting intimacy and deepening freedom at the same time…it demands a false choice.
I feel a bit like the old mystery-crone Hecate or Callieach, sitting here at this paradoxical crossroads, waiting for mostly Conservative-Evangelical students to come down the road. (You can pray for them this week :)).
I am steeped and rooted in an orthodox tradition of wisdom called Christianity, though many (if not all) in my Christian communion would see my Orthodoxy as suspect. Fine. I also stand in an everchanging river of devotion in which I know most fully my faithfulness when I hold loosely “all that I know.” The Presence of Godde is most full when I don’t allow my mind to grasp it, propagate it, defend it, even proclaim it. At this intersection of orthodoxy and surrender, I am curious about mechanisms of both "communities" and their constitutive "human-persons."
I hear it most in my students when they encounter expansive ways of being in prayer that they “were told were verboten.” So many felt-senses of guilt, shame, fear when simply thinking new things, or trying new practices of other wisdom traditions for a couple days. They arrive inculcated with fear-bombs focused on condemnations for any betrayal, loss of faith. They laugh nervously when I remind them “You don’t have to believe everything you think.” Most distrust their own experience(s) so much that they are afraid they’ll think the wrong thing, reaping a damning harvest of banishment.
Then, we have liberalized, individualistic pathways to “freedom” in which communal witness or affirmation is simply too vulnerable to need, even while screaming for it in shrill demands. The woundedness of feeling unseen/unheard is so painful that to ask a community to bear witness is improbable, if not utterly refused…which leads to human starvation, overwhelming hunger for belonging, forever out of reach. Or belonging solely within such a narrow tribe from which banishment is even more excruciating to consider.
Ultimately, co-dependence strangles the gifts of being human—discovering & trusting our own heart’s desire, imagining play and innovation in which we can encounter Godde again and again, belonging in an expansive tribe who loves us no matter what, even when our growth means we leave. Co-dependence strangles what healthy community can provide: a steady place to be seen, learn, grow, release, contribute, challenge, love—no matter what—when/if any return.